An Introduction to Property Tax

Property taxes give state and local governments a dependable source of revenue to help pay for public schools, roads, parks, public safely, and government administration. Levied at every level of local government, from state to county to special districts, property taxes pay for public services. These taxes are often complex and not well understood.

Public schools are often the biggest line item for receiving funding from property taxes. Because the U.S. government contributes about 10 cents to every dollar spent on K-12 education, most of the money that pays for education comes from state and local governments. Thus, schools are highly dependent on the property wealth of a community.

In California, property tax is one of the largest taxes paid. Sometimes, Californians pay more in property taxes and charges than they do in state personal income taxes. Property tax is unpopular among taxpayers, partly because it varies between regions. Different assessments for similar properties seem unfair, and the tax may burden fixed-income property owners in high-growth areas.

RSG analyzes, projects, and explains property tax revenues for local government organizations to assist with budgeting, upholding the specifications in their tax sharing agreements, and presenting information to the public.

Written by Evanne Holloway, a Research Assistant at RSG